Thursday, December 31, 2009

Easy, Simple (Did I Mention Easy?) Baked Treats

I mentioned here that I baked a lot of treats over the holidays. I figured it might be a little late to share details, but then I realized with New Years and Superbowl coming up, people are most likely still entertaining. And if you are anything like me, you also need treat ideas on hand all year for that night when your child says, "Mom, I told Mrs. Williams you'd make yummies for the (insert holiday) party tomorrow."

So I am going to elaborate more with better directions.

First, the most requested recipe was for the Oreo Bark, which was easy to make... if you have a double boiler. The recipe is two ingredients... how much easier can it get? (This is pictured at about 4 o'clock in the photo above.)
20 Oreos (I made one batch with the Candy Cane Oreos and they came out great as well.)
2 2/3 cups white chocolate chips

•Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with waxed paper.
•Break the cookies into small pieces.
•Melt the white chocolate chips in the double boiler. (Note- I started with about 1/2 cup of chips in the boiler and then added more as it melted nice and smooth. Remember when melting chocolate, you can never stir too much.)
•Add your cookie chunks and stir.
•Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and spread to about a 1/2-inch thickness. •Refrigerate until solid, about 1/2 hour.
•Remove the bark from the pan and carefully peel off the waxed paper.
•From here- I just break it into pieces from 1"-2" in size. I tried to cut with knife, but it just crumbled, so I went back to breaking by hand for that rustic look.

Next up, I put a spin on traditional no bake cookies by making them into balls. (Pictured at about 10 o'clock above.) I used my handy dandy cookie dough scoop to make perfect little balls.

1 3/4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
3 cups quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

•In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in peanut butter, oats, and vanilla. Drop by teaspoonfuls (or by balls) onto wax paper. Let cool until hardened.

The Poor Mans Turtles are super easy to make as well and a great mix of sweet and salty. (Pictured at about 7 o'clock in photo.)

a big bag of small pretzels
2 bags of rolo candies
1 bag whole pecans

•Place pretzels on cookie sheet (don't forget to use that parchment paper) and place a Rolo on top of each one. Put in 250º oven for about 2 minutes. Keep a close eye, as you don't want to Rolos to melt, just get soft.
•Take them out of the oven and gently press one pecan into each Rolo. Move to fridge and let cool until hardened.

My favorite new hack that I invented (because I am sure nobody has ever though of this before me!) was little Sugar Cookie Muffin Peanut Butter Cups Delight. (I invented the name too.) I had a few packages of sugar cookie mix in the pantry that I had gotten nearly free with coupons- so I wanted to use them up, but didn't want boring old sugar cookies. I decided to make mini muffins out of them and put peanut butter cups inside.

•Make the sugar cookies according to package directions.
•Use that handy cookie dough scoop again to make the perfect sized muffins in the mini muffin tin.
•I baked at 350º for 6 minutes, but I have a convection oven, so yours may be a minute or 2 longer.
•Remove muffins from oven and immediately push peanut butter cups into the center. You have to do this while still piping hot and squishy (that is the technical baking term)
•I used Rolos, leftover Oreos halves and some other goodies here. You can pretty much push anything inside there that you want.
•Let cool.
These are my new go to for school treats. I just need to keep some sugar cookie mix on hand and I will always be good to go when Ariana ambushes me with a goodie request. I like that they are bite sized and can easily be thrown in a bag and toted to school.

There you have it, Yummy Mommys baking hacks. And they are all delicious, trust me.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Design on a Dime: Project One

(Feel free to scroll down past my tangent to see the before and after picture.)

With everybody talking about it, I just had to check out Hoarders- the show on A&E about people who are compulsive hoarders... and basically live in filth because of it. I think it's a sham- they all want to say they have some disease- and as we all know I have no tolerance for calling your weakness a disease. I mean, really, just get of your ass and clean your house. Pretty sure you can't take a pill to help with that. These people lose their children due to the conditions and still don't clean up! Good God, get your priorities in order.

That said, I have family members who live/ lived like this. Truly, with the bathtub filled with junk so it couldn't be used... with a small path leading through the house so you could hike through. And it scares me. When I see a pile of laundry in my bedroom not put away, I get anxious... every time I look at it. I am fanatic about everything having 'a place'. A place for everything and everything in it's place. And with a house from 1840 with no attic, garage, basement and 3 bedroom for 5 people, you better believe we need to adhere to this policy lest someday I wake up surrounded by clutter piled 4 feet high around me. Now, don't get me wrong, just because I have a place for everything doesn't mean everything is always where it belongs... quite the contrary with 3 kids... but at least when it comes time to pick up, everything has a home. This also plays into my obsession in taking things to Goodwill and always having at least one bag on deck to drop off.

Wow, that was a tangent to tell you that this is the time of year where I typically reorganize. You know, after Christmas, you get all the new stuff that needs homes. But since it is after Christmas, there is never extra money so I do the old reuse and repurpose method, which is what I refer to as design on a time.

Project One is the living room bookcase- oddly enough to this point it stored books. But we are fortunate to have book shelves all over the house and I don't need to the books that I have already read readily available- so I moved them upstairs. What I do need better access to is our growing collection of games and puzzles. As the girls are getting older, we are able to play more as a family and Acadia is getting to the puzzle stage (of which we have about 50!) Therefore, I moved all the games and puzzles to the shelf. I then stepped back and looked at the shelf... the stuff on it was not really attractive in our living room. So, I whipped up a curtain from spare fabric scraps and bought 2 tension rods for the top and bottom. It looks way better, provides much better access to often-used toys and only took about 1 hour and $5.

(In my defense, the before picture is right after Christmas, where we still had gifts and stuff everywhere.)
Next up: a book sling for Annika's room.

Is it just me? My anti-American Girl theories.

Ok, I have held my tongue long enough... I am going public. I do not like the American Girl franchise. There, I said it. You can all start throwing tomatoes now.

I was first exposed to American Girls a couple of years ago. I saw Ariana's friends with them and thought they were cute, sweet... much better than a Bratz doll or many of the other questionable female images we expose our daughters to.

I never really paid them much thought since none of my girls ever asked about them or wanted them... until we received a random American Girl catalog in the mail one day. As I opened the pages, I must have uttered a few profanities not suitable for my little mommy blog. A singular DOLL cost close to $100!!! Yes... one, zero, zero. And that is just the beginning. Clothes cost $25-$35 per outfit (and a little girl can get a matching outfit for $70-$80!), ear piercing or hair styling for $20, cribs for $75. And, there are way more ridiculous items I am not even mentioning.

As I flipped through the catalog, I was shocked and wondered how the hell this company conned people into thinking it was ok to spend more on these dolls than I spend on my own human needs. How could I possibly spend hundreds of dollars and this marketing bonanza and instill any sense of social responsibility, sense of living simply (or at the very least, not extravagantly!) in my daughters?

But, I seem to be the only person in America that shares these thoughts. People that purchase these girls don't seem to bat an eyelash. I was completely taken aback when a women whom I adore from stalking her blog asked her followers on Twitter about buying an American Girl doll. This woman has the most fantastic blog that shares great ideas for interacting/teaching/playing with your small children. From her blog, "Her impetus for this blog? Sharing with friends and family how she tries to sneak in some sort of learning for her own children in the every day. Nothing super-fancy, expensive, or complicated--just learning through meaningful time and play together." (I am not linking to her blog or naming her because I really do respect her and am just using her as an example, not trying to call her out.) Nothing super-fancy or expensive? Clearly she and I have completely differing views on fancy or expensive- If I spent $30 on clothing for myself, I would consider it fancy, let alone for a molded, plastic Stepford baby.

The next blow came recently when I asked my friend... "Bob" (let's just call him Bob so he won't know I am talking about him) told me he bought his youngest daughter an American Girl for Christmas! Bob!!! Let me paint you a picture... Bob has had the same Birkenstocks for 15 years and has resorted to using duct tape to hold them on his feet. He wears 10 year old corduroys and thrift store t-shirts. So, the concept of him shelling out $100 for anything, let alone something so frivolous for his impressionable little girl, floored me.

I guess that's it. I am alone on this one. My daughters will be off at college some day when the rest of their peers are sitting in their basement playing with the American Girl dolls that their parents forewent a college savings for.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Super Fantastic Christmas Gifts

It's that time again for my Christmas gift recap. On the gift front, it was a fantastic year for me, I got so many great things! My favorites were probably the handmade and repurposed items (via Etsy and Goodwill.) 1. I got a gorgeous scarf from Colby (via It's All in the Bag). I mentioned it on my gift ideas post so he got me a gorgeous blue/ brown motif one (that's not whats pictured here since I wore it all day Christmas and it ended up with gravy/chocolate/baby spit/ etc. all over it.)
2. This is probably my favorite gift... such a fun bracelet that also mentioned on my blog. It is a repurposed camera part fashioned into a bracelet. It is very apropos for me with my love of photography. I am not really a jewelry girl- but this is fantastic. (Check out JDW originals on Etsy.)
3. Ariana got me this great jar/jug at Goodwill. It is the perfect size to make a batch of orange juice for the fridge and takes up no space. And, it is so retro-cute.

I also got a couple of great gifts that are a teeny bit indulgent... and marvelous! 1. My mother got me a real life KitchenAid mixer! Isn't is beautiful, wonderful, gorgeous??? I LOVE IT! It has seriously already made at least 25 batches of baked treat goodness. I can't even believe I made it 15 years with my itty-bitty hand held mixer! And, thanks to a pricing mix-up at Kohls, she even got me the top of the line version!

2. Colby got me the great retro clock- iPod player. I remember my mothers clock similar to this when I was a kid (although her was not the cool turquoise color). It is so fun, I don't think I can even hide it in my bedroom. I'll most likely have to find a place in the common living area for it so everyone can see it.

I got so many great gifts: boxing gloves for my Wii fit, Wii Fit Plus game (I made the mistake of stepping on and measuring myself... yup, definitely gained a lot over the holidays. Argggg) a cute shirt that Annika picked out at Goodwill, aprons that the girls made for me, footie pj's with sock monkey feet (now that's a hot visual, huh?) and lots more.

I am so freakin' lucky. My family gets me... they really do. (Ok, plus they get help from my blog... but that's ok, right?)

Friday, December 25, 2009

My New Best Friends: Kitchen Tools

I am a total baking hack. I like to try to find the quickest/ shortest route to anything involving the kitchen... this year is no different. And this year, I found some great tools that sincerely have made my time in front of a hot oven considerable easier.

First up, my new KitchenAid mixer. I can just thrown in the ingredients and then start putting things away or start another recipe... whatever. And it is so powerful, it mixes chocolate chip cookie dough (chips included!), banana bread and pretty much any other ingredients I can throw in it. Love it!

Next up: Reynolds parchment paper. How did I make it 33 years without learning about this? Where my girlfriends at? Why didn't you tell me I could shave hours off cleaning time and probably have saved many a baking pan in the meantime? You just line any pan with the paper and bake your cookies and treats without fear of them sticking. I think it's rated up to 420º- so you are safe for pretty much any baked good. AND, you can just fold it up and reuse it over and over. Think of the energy and resources you are saving from scrubbing all those pans (and the extra calories from buttering/ greasing pans.) Parchment paper is my new favorite green tool.

Most versatile: My cookie dough scoop. I just grabbed one on a whim at Target when I had to make a few dozen cookies for Ariana's dance recital. I hate it when all my cookies are different sized (OCD much?) That $2 plastic worked out so well I actually went to Bed Bath & Beyond and bought a nicer one. But, it's not just that it makes perfect shaped cookies (which it does) they are all cooked perfectly when they are the same size too. And then... the 1" scoop is perfect for making the perfect sized mini muffins too. (like what I've pictured here.) It just makes things go so much quicker, like an assembly line, and it makes things easier for the kids too, when they are helping.

Last is my double boiler: I have tried melting chocolate in different ways (microwave, makeshift boiler) and having the real deal this year was a lifesaver. I am lucky enough to have Calphalon cookwear (thanks, Mom) and this double boiler is basically a stainless steel insert that sets into my pans. When double boiling, you are basically using the heat (steam) from the pan below (while not actually having the double boiler touch the water below) and, when it's done right, you can make some yummy treats very quickly and easily. The Oreo cookie bark that I made this year was the most popular treat and I was able to prepare a ton of it in short order with the help of my little friend: mr. Calphalon double boiler.

Do you have any special tools that you can share? I know there are probably a bevy of hacks out there like myself who know dirty little secrets of Momma's kitchen... do tell!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

If you mug me for my drugs, you will totally ruin my Christmas.

Sorry to be light on the posts for the holidays, but we had a major minor setback this week in our house. Colby threw his back out on Monday morning as he stepped out of the shower. Threw it out as in laying on the bathroom floor for 2 hours as he could not move. Possibly the worst week of the year for this to happen... as the queen of procrastination, I have dozens of gifts to wrap, random Christmas cards left to send, lots of baking to do, many gifts still to hand make, laundry piled up, basic household disarray on the scale of 'Hoarders' as the baked goods, Christmas cards, random gifts, craft supplies, etc., etc., pile up...

This may be the week where I finally have a breakdown. If you hear breaking news of a wife abandoning her house with a husband in bed calling out for pie and beer... it wasn't me.

One of the chores I despise in life is going to the pharmacy. I typically weasel my way out of it and thankfully we rarely need drugs in this house. But, with Colby lying on the bathroom floor, using my feminine wiles to coerce him to go to the drugstore wasn't working out. AND, since I never go, I was not aware that people completely stock up on drugs the week before a holiday. As in, every pill popper within a 20 mile radius was at my pharmacy.

You see, my disdain for the pharmacy stems from the fact that they seem to be the least discreet people on earth. I don't care what medicine I have, it's like the fabled condom price check, "Mrs. Horne, your erectile dysfunction pills are ready at register 5!"

And Monday was no different. Only in the fact that they were no less than 35 people milling around the 25 square feet of the pharmacy counter at Rite Aid. Colby had a prescription for a muscle relaxer, a steroid and vicodin. The lady hands me the vicodin, I pay and then realize I only had 1 bottle of pills in the bag. I begrudgingly get in the back of the line, wait 15 minutes to get back to the same lady and tell her I am missing the other 2 prescriptions. She yells down to the pharmacist who, in no exaggeration, is 20 feet away. He yells back to me, "The prescriptions you got had to be called in in 2 different ways, so the other request isn't here yet." I am sure I looked perplexed. First off, that he was yelling across the pharmacy at me and second why there were 2 separate requests. "The vicodin you got is a controlled substance and can't be faxed in like the other 2."

Oh, sweet. Now every person here thinks I am some pill-popping crack whore. Or, even better, the pill popping crack whores that are here now know that I am packing and are going to push me down in the Rite Aid parking lot and steal my drugs.

Oh, yes... Merry Christmas, one and all.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I just finished a 10 hour stint in front of my oven! And I am not even close to done yet with our holiday preparations! Acckkk- the holidays exhaust me. It really is my own fault because I am the Queen of procrastination and this is my kingdom.

I'd love to make this post eloquent and witty and amusing, but I am just too damn tired. I really just wanted to share a few of the easier recipes I used today that came out well with little effort.

First is one from Trey and Lucy, which is one of my most favorite crafty blogs. She has a simple recipe of pretzels, Rolos and pecans that takes 10 minutes, tastes yummy and is a perfect mix of salty and sweet. They went over well at Ariana's piano recital today, so I am adding them to my recipe book.

Next was some White Chocolate Oreo Bark. I finally have a double boiler this year, and this made melting chocolate sooo much easier- you must invest in one if you don't already have one. This recipe is super sweet (helllllooo? Oreos + white chocolate) so I did cut it into tiny bite sized pieces as not to overwhelm any taste buds.

One of my favorite treats are no bake cookies like my mom always made. I altered the idea a little to make it easier for gift baskets by making balls instead of cookies. I achieved this with my awesome new friend: the cookie scoop. This fantastic invention makes every cookie the perfect shape and size... I will blog about this in the future... good stuff.

And just for good measure- here is the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. Yup, it's Nestle Tollhouse. It comes out perfect every time... especially with my new KITCHENAID MIXER that I just go for Christmas!!! That's right, my mom got me the Cadillac of all kitchen tools... and I LOVE it! More on that at a later date too.

*Update: Nap Mom suggested No Bake Scotcheroos- I checked out the recipe and they look super-simple and yummy. I will be trying these in the next couple of days.

Do you have any tried and true (but simple enough for us non foodie mom) recipes that you go to when you bake for the holidays? I'd love to add some to my repertoire.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Creating Memories for Three Generations

I love, LOVE, this picture of me with two of my girls. (If your household is anything like ours, photos including mom are few and far between!) So, not only am I thrilled to actually be in a photo with my girls, we are doing something that we all love to do together... baking. The girls love to cook whether it is breakfast with daddy or baking cookies with mommy. It is one of the rare times we can all work together with little disagreements or arguing. I think gathering in the kitchen to make holiday treats is one of those universal feel good pastimes.

I remember watching my mom bake chocolate chip cookies, no bake cookies, homemade birthday cakes... And now, I enjoy spending those same times with my own daughters. This weekend, my parents will be here to celebrate Christmas. I decided to make it extra special for the girls and I and asked my mom if she would mind spending Sunday baking with us. I have a lot of goodies to make for friends, family, coworkers... and I thought it would be a great time to create some fun memories with all three generations in the kitchen. The girls have not even asked about Christmas presents from Grammy and Grampy. All they keep asking is when will they get to bake with Grammy.

Now that is what Christmas is about.

(The bottom photo is of my great grandmother. I am not sure what it is about the photo, but I just love it, especially when coupled with the photo of us in the kitchen.)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rockin' Kids Music Coming to New Hampshire: Princess Katie & Racer Steve

Everyone knows I love good (non-cheesy) music for my kids. I have discovered a kiddie rock band from New York City called "Princess Katie & Racer Steve". Disney's Family Fun wrote, "Alternative rock-loving parents will dig how much Katie sounds like Natalie Merchant (only much more chipper), and the high-spirited high jinks of Racer Steve will keep their tots in stitches." Annika and Acadia really like their album, Fast & Feisty. It is so upbeat and fun that the girls were dancing fools. And the best part? They are coming to New Hampshire! Cool, right? We rarely get cool shows right here in our very own state!

They will be at the Lebanon Opera House on March 20. I know that is forever away when we are all harried and stressed about the holidays, but I wanted to introduce you to Princess Katie & Racer Steve with a free download of one of their songs to help entertain your little ones during this busy time. Jitterbug has a limited time download of their song, Holiday. Check it out. (You can also check out a couple of their YouTube videos here and here.)

I have a Fast & Feisty CD to give away, but I am going to wait until after the holidays when people have a little more time catch up there favorite blogs. In the meantime, check out their great website and consider grabbing a CD for the little rockers in your life. Make sure to mark your calendar for the upcoming show as well, we know how quickly those family calendars fill up.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Good Times at Goodwill

You all know I love Goodwill- great for craft projects, kitschy gifts, home decorating... the possibilities are endless. One of my favorite things to do while I am in there is to go through the books. You would not believe what you will find for books, things you would certainly never see in Barnes and Noble or Borders! But, aside from the great variety, I also love to open books up and look at inscriptions. When you give a book as a gift, it is typically to someone of a close personal relationship. The book inscriptions are usually very telling and give a voyeuristic view into a strangers life.

I found a couple that made me laugh this week:

Ahhh, the stereotypical LOVE book, typically given with the first giddy year...
(For Christina, If this is for Valentines Day- then I declare today and everyday Valentines Day! Love you- L)

Well, Christina, since this book is sitting on the Goodwill bookshelf, we all know Valentines Day is not every day, don't we?

I really found the next book and inscription interesting: This is totally a gift my dad would give me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Keeping it Simple With Printable Holiday Gift Tags

In the heart of keeping the holidays simple, why not print your tags right from home to save packages and unused tags? I have found the cutest tags online from a variety of websites. Here are just a few...

From A Fanciful Twist:

From Orange You Lucky:

From Domestifluff

From 2 Brunettes Shop:

From Babalisme:


From The 80's Me:

From Creature Comforts Blog:

From Momomushy:

From Bucklette (These are hilarious):

From Inside A Black Apple:

From Vol. 25:

Lollichops has a huge selection of printables from labels to tags for homemade gifts (scroll way down to get to the gift tags):

From Paperseed:

From Living Locurto:
There are tons more out there if you just do a search for Christmas printables. Enjoy!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Hoopla and Activities for December 12 & 13

Ahhh, the holidays are so freakin' hectic! I just want to sit back and relax with the family for one stinkin' evening. Alas, no such luck. So here is some random crap I have floating in my head, at least if I get this out, my head will feel slightly less cluttered.

• First, check out this adorable (and cheap) gift. Great for hostess, mother, sister... $6!

• Amazon and iTunes are both giving the gift of music for the holidays. iTunes has artists from Toby Keith to Weezer and Amazon has Tori Amos to Lady Gaga. Free music... nice.

• Speaking of hectic holidays...
Go here for a free printable of this card. You can tuck a tea bag in it and pass it on to a harried friend, neighbor, coworker, mailman... whatever. It's a cute idea.

• How can you not love Shel Silverstein for your little ones?
We have many of his books here and Ariana absolutely loves them. Shel's final project, Underwater Land, has been released. You can even download in on MP3 and print your own downloaded version of the book. How's that for green? Save on the manufacturing of CD/jewel case/inserts... save on shipping fuel and emissions. Also, if your book becomes tattered (or scribbled on, eaten) as our books do... you can just reprint it. How fun is that? Only $8.99 for the MP3 and 32 page PDF.

There are tons of winter activities this weekend (as if you aren't busy enough) There is the 13th Annual Inn to Inn Cookie & Candy Tour, sleigh rides, appearances by the man in red all over the state, the Boston Pops in Manchester on Sunday, Candlelight Stroll at Strawbery Banke Museum, and Borders free activity this Saturday at 11am is a Beary Good Time stuffed animal show and tell ans storytime. (If you are a Borders rewards member, make sure you print out a 30% off coupon to take with you.)

Ok, I have to thrown in some adorable holiday kids stuff for a smile. Do you remember the lovely gift that my wonderful in-laws gave us years ago... the obnoxious singing Christmas tree that just will NOT die! But, as ear piercing as it is, it really has brought us some of our most memorable holiday moments. Here was Annika with the tree 3 years ago at age 1. (it is sound activated, which explains her squeaking)...

And here is Acadia 3 years later. Apparently, Annika taught her how to dance...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Utterly Random John Tesh and Mini Blinds

So, I was listening to the John Tesh Show... what? He's cool. Ok, it wasn't on purpose. I was driving across the state the other night to hang with my wonderful girlfriend and have some scrumptious food, yummy beer and scintillating conversation when I decided to crank the Christmas music... you know, get in the mood. My thoughts were wandering, as happens when I am ever in a vehicle alone with my own head. When I snapped back to reality, I heard John Tesh's soothing voice telling my what was coming up next, "You won't believe how dozens of children die every year: the hidden dangers of mini blinds."

First- my thoughts went to Lora and her tampons- great. Thanks, Lora. (See #9.) Next I thought, "Hidden danger?" Surely this was a rebroadcast circa 1994. Is this really late breaking news? I am pretty sure I first heard these warnings when I was in high school. Who the hell still has these blinds? I am mean, really. You know you can't clean them adequately, they are most likely a hideous mauve or some sort of gross shade of Marlboro yellow from 20 years of cigarette smoke, they are completely tacky. Get rid of them already! I am feeling like the warnings are a bit outdated at this point. Akin to broadcasting a warning on children and lawn darts.

Window Blinds Kill Children- figure it out people!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Crafty Mama

I just wanted to update you on the gifts I have vowed to make for Christmas. I didn't want people to think I just make these lists and don't actually use the ideas myself... because... i do!

I have had success with a few of the items so far. First, the scarf:

I finished it just in time to see lots of friends and family for the Thanksgiving holiday. I have to say, it was a hit... after about the 6th person complimented the scarf, Colby said, "What the hell is up with the scarf??? What's the big deal?" I am not sure, but everyone seemed to think that it was awful cute. Little did they know it cost less than a dollar to make and it was a 10 minute project. Although I had been concerned about working with the elastic thread, it really was just like using any other thread.

I have also completed two of the tooth fairy teddy bears.

I switched it up a little by using a fuzzy/furry felt since I thought it would be cozier for the girls. This worked great except when it came to sewing the eyes and nose on. The thread got buried in the fur and you couldn't see the face. I decided to go with button eyes to get around this. I could not use buttons for Acadia's bear since they would be a choking hazard, so I just kept sewing over and over the eyes until I built the thread up enough to show over the fur. I think both came out cute... now only 4 more to go!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Mamas- You Are NOT Crazy....

Have you ever had that discussion about where the matches to socks go... the sock fairy... the dryer eating your socks??? Well, I now know where the socks go....

Right there. That is THIRTY FOUR unmatched socks (and 1 lonely pair of underwear)! THIRTY FOUR! That means 34 times I have searched aimlessly for a match for a single sock!

Oh, where were they, you are asking? The repairman found them *somewhere* in my washing machine. Really? There is a hiding place where 34 socks and one pair of underwear can go undetected? Hmmm, why can't the pair go together? Why is it 34 single socks?

And, of course, I have since thrown away the other 34 when I could not find the match, so these are useless now. At least one of life's big questions has been answered for me.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Kids Say the Darndest Things: And Make Things Mighty Uncomfortable

Ariana (looking at two women holding hands): Mom, if 2 ladies marry, how do you know who has the baby?
Me: Well, technically they can both have one, but I am sure they discuss and figure you will actually birth one.
Ariana: But how can they with no father?
Me: Well, some part of a man must be included to have the baby, so they would most likely involve a doctor to help them with that part.
Ariana: You mean the tadpole part?
Me: Ummm, yeah.... that part.

Friday, December 4, 2009

6 More Unique Christmas Gift Ideas

Here are some more cool Christmas gift ideas- although I am crafting most of mine I still can't resist a little fantasizing here and there. Also, if I don't get all my gifts made in time (which is not at all unheard of) I like to have a backup plan.

I was reading one of my fellow mom blogs, Carrin's Comments, and she had this great idea on Christmas gifts. Her cousin gives 5 gifts to each child: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read, and of course, a Santa gift. I wish she had given me this great idea a little sooner! But consider the following gifts under the 'something you want' category...

Boom Boom Cards- these are decks of cards that play up the 'intentional acts of kindness/ pay it forward' theories. You pay $9.99 for a deck (original or youth version) and then when you perform the act, you pass the card on and track the act on the website and see how far forward your kindness is paid. It seems like a fun idea to do with Ariana, so I might buy her the youth version.

There is something so simple and sweet about this felt jewelry craft kit at My Sweet Muffin. I am not a fan of all those cheesy bead kits you get around Christmas time, especially with the choking hazard to my 1 year old, but these felt flowers are just perfect.

This one is my personal favorite- how cute are these bracelets for that photography lover in your life??? LOVE them!!! This Etsy site has a few different choices, check it out.

This is a little out of my price range, but I LOVE it. I would love a custom poster of my girls with this rock star feel. They do baby announcements, greeting cards, etc... but I really would want a big poster... hmmm... maybe Mother's Day??? Check out Rattle & Roll and see all their fun stuff.

I love those handmade scarves from It's All In The Bag. PLUS, she has free shipping for Christmas. She also has the cutest little purses- check her out.

And this is possibly my most favorite toy from Urban Outfitters. Seriously, how cute is this clock with that Tiffany Blue like I have in my bedroom??? AND you can plug an iPod into it- pretty much perfect for the night table.

There you have some more fun Christmas ideas- but you better get going, only 21 shopping days left!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Tao Of Willie: A Book Review

I am the type of person who turns to books when I need guidance. I like to be able to read and reread and absorb and question and read further. It helps me to work things through in my head. I like to presume that books work this way for others, so I tend to give books as gifts, especially when I want to maybe pass on subtle hints. One of those hints I passed on last year was 'The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart'. (Yes, that is Willie, as in Willie Nelson.) I gave it to Colb in an attempt to give him some insight on living simply. I am just now getting around to reading it myself and I really enjoyed it.

The book is Willie's life as it relates to the philosophical text of the Tao Te Ching. If you are looking for a deep, theoretical dissection of Taoism, this is not the book. But, if you like a nice, simple good ol' boys take on happiness, this is a fun read. Especially since he clearly did not set aside his penchant for his marijuana pipe to write the book; it's quite a journey to meander through.

If you are not a Willie Nelson fan, or just want the Cliffs Notes, here are some of the quotes I dog eared while I read:

One of these hints I passed on was the respect of others must be earned through the positive qualities of our actions.

You can't always change the circumstances of your life, but you can change your perception of those circumstances and of the world around you by any creative act. So to each of you, I say "Create!" It doesn't matter what: a line of poetry, a phrase of a song or a perfect pot roast.

I've noticed that people spend too much much time worrying about what someone else is doing or saying... If someone's a jerk, that's their misfortune, not yours.

Let go and you'll be free to find happiness now. And the best part of that, is that once you learn to do it, you can do it again and again and again, until it becomes instinctive.

What is the incredible secret? It is the word 'Now' It is the understanding that happiness exists at just one time. And that time is now.

We wake up in a new world every day, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

...we are left with the simple fact that the beauty of life is in the discovery of things as they happen.

Go on, give yourself a long, hard look in the mirror... Look at the shape of your smile and the glint in your eyes. Is it you, or is it a mask you wear for other people?

We'd probably all be a lot happier if we'd just remember how lucky we are to be alive on the beautiful planet.

It's easy to be false with other people, but to be false to yourself is a waste of your life on Earth.

I find it curious that wherever you go on earth, the fundamental teachings remain the same. Underlying everything is he simple idea of love.

Real people do not forget their beginnings or look for their end. Real people know their age is good. And that old age is also good. And that any age is good.

I believe in peace. I also believe that culture and knowledge are capable of bringing about both freedom and peace.
Connections to those around you, to the world around us all, and to the universe that stretches to the great beyond are the things that define us.

I would recommend it. Go on over to Mama Kat's Losin' It and maybe find some other book reviews to pique your interest in her writers workshop...

Kids Say the Darndest Things

Annika (in her scratchy, sick voice): Daddy, I think I have a frog in my throat.
Daddy: Oh yeah?
Annika: Yes, and I think he's sick.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Living Simply

Now that I have it permanently emblazoned on my body- I need to walk the walk. Coming from a family of very meager means- most of my life has been lived simply. My best memories of childhood are playing with all of my cousins at my grandparents house, running around in the woods, sneaking over to the strawberry fields and eating until our bellies ached. My brother and I never had lots of toys or 'cool' clothes, we didn't get cars when we got our licences, we didn't go to Disneyland. Even when I got old enough to work and had more ability to indulge in more extravagances, I still chose to wear my flannel and jeans and spend my spare time hiking or playing on the beach. I just never had a taste for the froufrou things in life- the seemingly unnecessary. I went through a stage when I started my first adult job where I had way more money than I needed and, for a time, my mindset started to wander... wonder. I went to malls, jewelry stores, car dealerships, gadget stores. I spent money. Lots of it. On superfluous things. It was fun, I guess.

That was about 2 years of my life. And then I got pregnant, had baby, came to my senses. I wasn't going to raise my daughter like that. We didn't even want to raise our daughter around that environment... so we moved to the White Mountains. And my journey began again to go back my roots.

And now, 3 babies later- I am still trying. I did not think twice about my girls seeing "live simply" tattooed on my body. I want them to know that it really is that important to me, to them, to our lives. It is clearly not something I take lightly. So when I posted a photo of my wrist online and a friend retorted, "when are you getting rid of your phone, tv, computer, car, cameras, ipod etc?" it really bothered me. Aside from the fact that he is a jackass, I reserve the right to live simply, the way I choose to, in my own definition. For me, living simply is not moving to a hut on a mountainside eating tree bark.

Do I have an iPod? Why yes. Does it save me from the waste of hundreds of plastic CD's/cases/inserts? Why yes.

Do I drive an SUV to accommodate a family of 5? Yes. Am I hanging on to a 10+ year old smaller car to save gas and keep it out of the landfill for as long as possible? Yes.

Do I buy a cute new outfit for my daughter that I just can't resist how stinking adorable it is? Occasionally. Do my children wear hand-me-downs and Goodwill? Most often.

Do I wash our laundry in a washing machine instead of on a stone down by the river? Yes. Do I use a dryer for our family of 5? Very rarely in the last 3 years in an emergency.

Basically, I am living my life in a way that works for my family. I cannot impose my every whim on 4 other people. But I can certainly try my hardest to make it work for all of us while appreciating our days, enjoying our moments and keeping peace with our environment so that my grandchildren can do the same.

And if that means driving to Starbucks to get a latte every once in a blue moon, don't judge!